Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.
Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics 2011.
There's nothing surprising in the opinion polls at the moment, and I see no reason for there to be any substantial change for quite some time.
The current situation is almost exclusively to do with the climate change/carbon tax "debate" and the electorate's trust, or lack thereof, of the two leaders of the major political parties.
First, the policy positions and political discourse of the ALP and Coalition on climate change have been totally bereft of integrity.
In 2007 the ALP had a position of taking action, then in 2010 deferred taking action, then in 2011 re-embraced taking action (although what constitutes that action is yet to be determined).
In 2007 the Coalition had a position of taking no action, then later in 2007 adopted a position of taking action, then in 2009 abandoned that position in favour of a position of taking "direct action".
Second, we have two leaders, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, who are not trusted by the electorate.
Gillard, for her announcement before the 2010 election that "There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead", and then proposing to introduce one following the election without any adequate explanation as to why, or, if she felt her intention prior to the election was distorted or misrepresented, an adequate explanation to the public as to how that might have occurred.
Abbott, whose trustworthiness voters have always questioned, compounded the electorate's suspicion of him with his "I'm a weather vane on climate change" multiple positions, and his "Gospel truth" interview with Kerry O'Brien.
Gillard is now saying to the electorate "I'm going to make a change that's in your best interests", but because she has not yet provided any information as to how this change will work, she is effectively asking them to take her on trust - a commodity she does not have to trade. Worse, she is asking them to trust her on the one item she said she would not introduce (as discussed above).
Abbott, on the other hand, is saying to the electorate "I'm not going to make any change".
In those circumstances, when you are faced with two people you do not trust, the one saying they are not going to change anything is more likely to win. It's the least risky proposition for the voter.
Yes, the Coalition does have a "direct action" policy on climate change, but I suspect the electorate feels - those who are aware of it - that it is mere window-dressing. Generally most would feel the Coalition is not going to do much at all, certainly while Abbott is leader.
Until the Government releases its policy then nothing much will change in the minds of the voters. The Coalition will be "winning" the climate change "debate".
However, when the Government releases its policy and then legislates it, the circumstances might well be different and change quite dramatically.
Assuming the Government legislates its policy to commence from July 2012, then by the time of the next election (say August - October 2013) it will have been in place for over one year.
Then it will be Gillard who will be saying to the electorate "I'm not going to make any change", and Abbott who will be saying "I am going to make a change that's in your best interests."
On that basis, when you are faced with two people you do not trust, the one saying they are not going to change anything is more likely to win.
Now there is a key assumption here, that the implementation of the policy will run relatively smoothly and that there are not "thousands of people thrown out of work" as a result.
But if that occurs, then the Coalition will have a difficult time explaining why they are going to rescind something that is working well enough, and also why their predictions of mass unemployment did not eventuate. Additionally, they will have to remove all the compensation that the public had been accustomed to receiving for over one year (assuming they don't decide to keep making the compensation payments and pay for it out of the budget).
In those circumstances, it will be Gillard who will claim to be vindicated and will be able to improve her credibility with the voters, at least from the basement to the underground car-park, and it will be Abbott who will lose further credibility sinking from the basement into the storm water drainage system.
There is also another potential problem looming for the Coalition, and that is that its climate change policy does not make any sense.
I suspect a majority of Coalition members of Parliament do not believe that human activity is responsible for very much, if any, change in the climate.
On that basis, why do they have a climate change policy? What is the point of having a policy for something you don't believe is a problem?
Alternatively, for the minority of Coalition members who do believe human activity is responsible for a change in the climate, why has the Coalition adopted a policy that does not include pricing carbon? A policy imperative which the overwhelming consensus of reports on this issue, from the Shergold Report through to the Garnaut Report and the Productivity Commission's Report, have recommended is the most efficient way to deal with the problem, and was adopted by the Howard, Rudd and Gillard Governments, and supported by the Turnbull Opposition?
While the Coalition is riding an anti-Gillard, anti-carbon tax wave currently, in policy terms, they are on flimsy ground.
The Coalition is hoping that the Gillard Government will botch the introduction of the scheme, or won't pay enough compensation, or will be beset by any other number of potential problems; and as sure as night follows day, the media will be replete with stories of people who claim to be much worse off as a result of the policy (whether that hardship is real or a media beat up - perish the thought) and every price rise on every item will be attributed to the carbon tax (Mon Dieu! Pas possible!).
Additionally, the ALP might panic and knife Julia Gillard before the next election, almost certainly ensuring their defeat by giving the public more of the same of 2010.
While the Coalition is easily "winning" the climate change "debate", until the Government releases its policy and, more importantly, implements it, the final nature of the electorate's decision is yet to be determined.
Currently Abbott holds the easier position, which explains the Coalition's overwhelming lead in the opinion polls, but by the time of the next election those positions might well be reversed and it might be Gillard who has the easier position.
Whether that will be enough to translate into a third term (which are never easy to win) time will tell. Gillard and the ALP might have damaged themselves so badly with the public that it doesn't matter how good their final policy is, and irrespective of whatever other policies they implement in any other areas, the public will reject them anyway.
Nevertheless, the reality is - and the leaders and the parties have only themselves to blame for this - the electorate's decision is, and will be, determined not by an enthusiastic embracing of either side, but by a choice between the lesser of two evils.
When you take the electorate for mugs, as both parties and leaders have done on climate change, the electorate will repay you in-kind, and with interest.
This is an accurate depiction of the mood of the electorate:
So it's well past time for a little bit of this.